Written April 16, 2008     

mtMorris Email Columns

writers on the loose - write your own columns
Write your own column!

Do you know any polygamists?
I am one

Office Daily

Check out my line of patriotic, Second Amendment and faith-based T-shirts

Custom Search

© 2016 Bob Lonsberry


receive columns by email
At some point, they will examine this as a colossal failure of both law enforcement and journalism.

The raid on the polygamist ranch in Texas.

What we've learned thus far is that the rules no longer apply. The police no longer need probable cause and the reporters no longer need attribution and evidence.

These people rape children, and 13-year-olds are bearing the children of men old enough to be their grandfathers.

That is the story, and it is being repeated over and over without attribution or substantiation. It is accepted as fact – incendiary, provocative fact – without question or challenge.

And it may be true.

Or it may be false.

But which it is is a detail no one seems particularly concerned about clearing up.

And yet 416 children have been taken from their parents and the state of Texas is on the path to legally dissolving their family ties and putting them up for adoption. It is the largest seizure of children in modern times and has not seen a parallel since the federal government ordered soldiers to round up Indian children a century ago to be shipped to schools far from their reservation homes.

Here's how it started.

A call came in to a Texas domestic violence hotline. The female on the other end claimed to be a 16-year-old who had borne a child by a 50-year-old “husband.” She identified herself by name and also gave a name for the father of her child.

That's the probable cause the Texas authorities used to seize an entire community and strip it of its children.

Oddly, the supposed victim was never heard from again. A similar and simultaneous call to Arizona authorities – where another polygamist colony is located – was found to be not credible and was not acted upon.

Investigation has shown that there are two females in this religious community who have the name the caller gave Texas authorities. One is a little girl and the other is a woman nearing middle age.

And the man who supposedly impregnated the caller has been under close probation supervision for most of a year. His Arizona probation officer doesn't believe it is possible for him to have done what he was accused of, and Texas officials interviewed him and have not charged him.

The call seems to have been a hoax.

And yet it has cost 416 children their parents.

As to the claims that men were being “married” to underage girls, no one has yet been charged in Texas and authorities have no specific crime they are investigating. Thus far it is said that these people preyed on underage girls – and they may have – but the authorities have not alleged it publicly or with charges. There are no specific claims, no evidence, just the repeated and unattributed hysterics of the cable news people.

And the confiscation of these people's children.

In our system, individuals are charged with crimes. Even if the crime alleged is a group crime – like a conspiracy or act of riot – individuals are charged, tried and penalized. But in this case, an entire group is being punished for the rumored but uncharged actions of individuals.

It is astounding that such a thing can happen in America.

More astounding is the severity of the penalty being imposed by the state of Texas. In civil actions, nothing is more severe than the involuntary dissolution of family ties. The vacating of family and parental rights is rare and extreme. And yet it is being imposed wholesale on a group of people whose particular offense seems to be affiliation with an odd religious group.

In the first week of captivity for the children, reporters were told by child protective workers that the mothers with the children did not want to talk to the press. Subsequent phone calls out of the fort where the children were taken refuted that.

On Sunday, cell-phone pictures and interviews were published. The pictures showed incredibly crowded conditions and the interviews showed mothers who absolutely did not want to be held.

Within hours of the publication of that information, a judge ordered the confiscation of all cell phones and electronic devices from within the interment camp. The next day, the women and children were herded onto tour buses and taken to a sporting arena.

Once there, the women and children were divided into two groups. Women with children 4 and under went into one room, women with children 5 and over went into another room.

Then the women with children 5 and over were told that they – just the mothers, not the children – had to go into another room to get some information. Those who said they wanted to stay and comfort the children were told they would be arrested if didn't do as they were told. And so the children were left alone, their mothers assuring them that they would be right back.

Once the mothers had been ushered into another room, a second door into that room opened and a line of armed police entered. The police surrounded the women, forming a circle around them, and then a statement was read. It said that the state was beginning proceedings to seize their children and that they must leave immediately.

There were not allowed to say good bye to their children. They were not allowed to explain to their children that they were leaving. They were just hustled out of the building and bused away.

We don't know how the more than 300 children took it, but we can imagine. Children as young as kindergartners simply had their mothers disappear and were left in a strange place with strange people.

The state of Texas claims that belonging to a family in this religious community constitutes abuse that can't be rectified except by an extinguishing of all parental rights.

And that claim is made in the absence of specific cases or allegations of child sexual abuse. They may well have taken place, and there certainly have been problems with the leader of this church, but in America aren't you innocent until proven guilty and doesn't the burden of proof rest with the government?

Authorities have said that three of the 416 people under 18 taken from the ranch were pregnant. Three of the teen-age girls were carrying babies. Rounding down to 400, and dividing by two – to factor out the boys – that would leave 200 girls. Half of those – 100 – would be over the age of 9. Sixty-six would be teen-agers, presuming random distribution of ages.

That works out to a teen-pregnancy rate of 45 per 1,000. That's how teen pregnancy is tracked, number of cases per 1,000 girls.

Presuming that teen pregnancy is an indicator of teen sexual activity – with an age peer or as the victim of an older man – that ratio of 45 per 1,000 would generally track the incidence of teen sexual activity.

Judging by its actions in this case, the state of Texas is particularly intolerant of teen sexual activity. But judging by statewide statistics, that doesn't seem to be the case.

Texas is, as a matter of fact, typically the second- to fifth-worst state in the union for teen pregnancy. The non-Hispanic white rate is 60 per 1,000, the black rate is 130 per 1,000 and the Hispanic rate is 145 per 1,000.

And, to repeat, the rate on the polygamous ranch seems to be 45 per 1,000. That is some 20 percent lower than the rate for other Texas girls in the polygamous girls' demographic cohort and more than 60 percent lower than among Hispanic girls in Texas.

That seems to indicate that underage girls on the polygamous ranch are 20 percent less likely to have sex than other white girls across the state and 60 percent less likely to have sex than Hispanic girls across the state.

Further, the rate of teen pregnancy on the polygamous ranch is lower than the rate of teen pregnancy in more than three-quarters of Texas counties.

And yet all the polygamous children have been seized.

Does that seem right?

Does that seem to abide by the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under law?

In fact, it doesn't. Rather, it looks like a capricious and vindictive enforcement of law.

Certainly, polygamists have problems that must be resolved immediately and convincingly. Polygamous groups across the country – to include Muslim polygamists – must disavow underage “marriages” and they must report violators to the authorities for prosecution. No one but consenting adults should be involved in polygamous “marriages.”

Further, polygamists must obey all incest laws. Some groups “marry” in disgustingly and dangerously small family circles. Half-siblings marry, aunts and nephews marry, all sorts of combinations that are both offensive and dangerous. Some polygamists – including the group targeted in this raid – have genetic problems that stem from inbreeding.

Finally, polygamists must take responsibility for the financial support of their wives and children. Some groups take plural wives and throw the wife and her children directly onto welfare. Called “bleeding the beast,” the practice is immoral and dishonest. Polygamists must get off welfare and stay off.

Those three areas must be resolved and this is as good a time as any for polygamist groups to clean house.

But some of these people have been living this way -- without these three vices -- for 150 years. It is a seldom mentioned American subculture. It is a practice which, recent court cases seem to indicate, can't be outlawed. Generations of practice show that, practically, it can't be suppressed.

But no matter how noxious or odd these people may seem, they are Americans who are protected by our Constitution and system of laws. In Texas, it seems clear that they are not being afforded those protections. In Texas, it seems clear that the rush to judgment – by the law and the media – is railroading a large number of people into the worst of possible situations.

This has never happened before in our country's history, and there's a reason for that. Always before, basic rules of due process have prevented a seizure of this magnitude. This process needs to be brought into line. Rule of law and common sense needs to be restored.

If there are charges to be brought, bring them. If there are people to be arrested, arrest them. But the wholesale taking of a community's children, without a single specific charge of abuse or neglect, is unthinkable. Every parent has been declared incompetent, but not a single parent has been charged.

This is not the American way.

The law has broken down and the watchdog press has become a cheerleader for excess and condemnation.

And little children and mothers cry.

- by Bob Lonsberry © 2008

bottom left